By Meghan Hall
It can be difficult—given Seattle’s rapid growth—to predict how a neighborhood will look long-term, putting architecture firms to the test when designing new projects. For the project team of a proposed 240-unit residential development just north of Fremont, the preliminary Early Design Guidance proved tough, with the Northeast Design Review Board discussing at length a number of design and context questions that needed to be resolved. At the end of the meeting on Monday night, the Board voted unanimously to have the project return for a second EDG meeting, which will occur in the coming months once designs have been updated.
Located at 907 NW Market Street, the project has been proposed by Greenbank Holdings LLC and architecture, planning and design firm Skidmore Janette. The main design driver of the project according to Principal Jay Janette, was to create a development that will emulate much of the other multifamily development along Market while also establishing a precedent for future urban and commercial design.
“Essentially, we’re east of the urban core…we are in a transitioning section of the neighborhood,” explained Janette. “We have a lot to draw from a vocabulary standpoint; we have very celebrated corners, some very vibrant entries with some muted by highly textural massive. We have highly expressive frames, we have volumes separated by high contrast materials. So, we have a lot of tools in our kit in order to shape and sculpt this project to make it one that is a contributing project, one that is sensitive to the transitions and we’re hopeful that it’s timeless.”
The project site is surrounded by a mix of uses, including single-family, commercial and the Gilman Park. A Planned senior community will be built just adjacent to the site, and the property is just blocks from the more commercial part of the neighborhood. Stoneburner, Peddler Brewing, MOD Pizza and Slate Coffee Bar are all located nearby.
The project team’s preferred option would utilize a corner lobby, and the entry and common spaces would engage the street corner. South facing courtyards would maximize access to light and air while aligning with adjacent developments to establish what design documents describe as a “network of open space.” Terraced massing along the street facades would mirror two-story buildings in the immediate area, and courtyard modulation would reduce the perceived scale of the structure. The Market Street façade would be further broken down by collective volumes and roof modulation, which would in turn help to establish the pedestrian scale—critical to a transitioning and densifying neighborhood.
The project team intends to use a variety of materials to help the project transition between the single-family homes in the immediate vicinity and the growing number of mid-rise residential complexes popping up around the neighborhood. Specific materials have not yet been solidified by the project team.
The Board debated for quite some time on the overall design on the project. However, the Board noted in its deliberations and comments that while it supported the preferred option, it also largely questioned the role of the corner, and whether or not it was appropriate for the neighborhood. While there are commercial uses in the area, the Board believed that a central lobby would be more appropriate given the immediate surrounding uses.
The Board recommended that the main massing be determined not by this residential feel, but a number of trees on site that would be preserved. The Board noted that modulation on Market Street in particular would need to have a strong relationship with those trees in order to create a friendly pedestrian space. A two-story podium, added the Board, was the right direction to turn and would help establish a good massing pattern for the project. In the future, the Board also asked to see additional imagery as to how the project would fit in with the trees and surrounding site context.
The Board also added that the lower two stories of the project will be critical in engaging the pedestrian realm, and should be anchored with darker or stronger materials, such as masonry, so long as it is not presented in a commercial way. The upper façade, stated the Board, could be quieter in materials and design so as to complement the tree canopy.
At the end of the meeting, the Board voted unanimously for the project to return for a second early design guidance meeting. The project team will then have the opportunity to present more refined plans and potentially move forward with the Master Use Permitting process.